Keys To Understanding Bible Prophecy
In order to understand Bible prophecy it is important to know some key facts about Bible interpretation. Most dreams and visions contain symbolism, and the Bible actually tells us how to interpret symbolism literally. Another important point is that even though we should interpret the Bible literally, often it is not 100% literal. I will prove that many statements in the Bible, not just Bible prophecy, are literal, yet are not 100% literal. Problems arise when we take many statements as being 100% literal.
(1) Interpreting Apocalyptic Symbolism
God speaks through dreams and visions which we find many times throughout the Bible. In Genesis, Jacob had a prophetic dream of speckled and spotted goats that foretold his future income. Joseph had two dreams, one of sheaves of wheat bowing to him, and one of the sun and moon and eleven stars bowing to him. Then later when in prison, the Pharaoh’s wine steward and chief baker each had a dream which Joseph interpreted, which was followed by Pharaoh having a dream which Joseph interpreted. Later the king of Babylon had a dream which Daniel interpreted, and Daniel himself also had prophetic dreams and visions.
All of those dreams and visions had literal meaning; for example, in Pharaoh’s dream the lean cows eating the fat cows meant that there would be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. During the seven years of famine the people were to eat grain which they stored up during the seven years of plenty. Clearly, the images were symbolic, but had literal meaning.
In the New Testament, after Jesus was born, Joseph had a dream where an angel told him to take Mary and Jesus into Egypt because the king was trying to kill Jesus. But that dream was not symbolic, it was plain. Then Paul had a dream of someone beckoning him to come to Macedonia, so it was another plain dream. But the visions of Apostle John in Revelation are 99% symbolic.
Visions are like dreams; most people understand that even simple, normal everyday objects or events in dreams almost always have meaning beyond the normal. The stalks of wheat that bowed down to Joseph symbolized his family bowing to him. But a big problem with Bible prophecy interpretation today, is that much of it is seen as being literal, therefore it is taken at 100% face-value, when it should not.
A symbol is an object standing for or representing something else; an emblem, a letter, figure, or character, such as a flag that is the emblem of a nation and represents certain things that the nation stands for or believes. Funk and Wagnell’s Ency. says:
The bases of symbolism is a physical connection, an association, or a chance resemblance between the symbol and the thing symbolized . . . the olive branch has denoted peace; the palm, triumph; and the anchor, faith or hope. (Vol. 22, p. 385)
In Revelation we are actually shown how its symbols are supposed to be interpreted. In the first chapter, John saw seven golden lampstands and seven stars in Christ’s hand; then Jesus explained it, “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches” (1:20). This shows us that the symbols of the Revelation, and all other Bible prophecies, have a definite literal meaning. So the book of Revelation is not just allegory with an unknowable meaning, but contains literal, factual information that is encoded with symbols and metaphorical language.
We also know from the above verse that God expects us to figure out the meanings of the symbols in Revelation, because he gave us this example of interpreting its symbols. The beast has a definite meaning, and the seven heads have a definite meaning that we can learn; likewise the second beast, the image of the beast, and mark of the beast.
Therefore, regardless of what you have been told, God is not going to turn the oceans into blood; that is symbolism that must be interpreted. And when Christ returns, he will not have a literal sword sticking out of his mouth! The sword represents words of judgment that will bring death to the wicked.
Rev. 9:14-15 clearly says that four angels bound at the Euphrates River will be released to kill one-third of mankind, so I guess we don’t need to worry about nuclear war destroying the world, because these angels are going to do the killing, right? No! It means that World War 3 will begin in that region, or by the people that live in that region, which is dominated by Islam.
In order to kill 2.4 billion people in warfare, the beast must be engaged in a massive war with many nations; which means it cannot at the same time be ruler of the whole planet. Will it be a global civil war? Nonsense! The passage also tells us WW3 will be caused by Muslims; not a revived Roman Empire. Revelation 13 twice says the beast will “make war.” The beast will attempt to conquer as much of the world as it can reach. It will come out of the Abyss for one reason, to wage jihad. The result will be WW3.
However, we should not take symbolism too far. For example, the anchor represents faith and hope, but an anchor is also big and heavy and could drop on your foot and crush it. Does that mean that we should not have a lot of faith? No, it means the relationship between the symbolism and what is symbolized is only partial, not total. The symbolism of an object does not have to be exact, it only needs to be close.
So, just like the dreams and visions of the Old Testament, we can expect the symbols of Revelation to have literal meaning which God wants us to learn. The symbols are not merely allegorical, such as referring to the general spread of evil in the world. No, specific images have specific meaning.
Theology does not have the answer to the meaning of Bible prophecy, because it is a practical, actual interpretation of symbolism. Take for example the 200 million fire breathing horses. It has a literal interpretation, which Bible commentaries have a difficult time with. Some commentaries actually say that there will be 200 million fire-breathing horses (Rev. 9), but it is symbolism that must be interpreted. And John was not trying to describe a modern weapon, he actually saw a horse with the head of a lion breathing fire. However, once it is correctly interpreted, it turns out to be a modern weapon that we will learn about in chapter 8.
(2) 100% Literal Interpretation?
(see the article, There Will Never Be A One-World Government, based on info in this section.)
(3) No Private Interpretation
How can an individual understand Bible prophecy, doesn’t the Bible say that no one person can interpret Scripture? No, it does not! This is an example of inaccurate interpretation. Often, when someone offers new insights on Bible prophecy, someone else will jump in and say, “there is no private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). But that passage is not being correctly understood. It is taken out of context, and is often not translated because the Greek is difficult to understand. Here is the NIV in context:
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)
This means that no prophecy in the Bible ever originated within the mind of a prophet; the prophet did not think up or invent his prophecies. It does not mean that no individual can understand prophecy. This passage is often used in an attempt to discredit new insights into Bible prophecy, but wrongly so. No place in Scripture does it say that only committees can hear from God or be led by God, or are called by God. Most likely, the opposite is true.
The above verse is just being used in an effort to silence people who teach something other than what the critic agrees with. God has not given the correct interpretation to a committee, or to many different people at the same time, because Bible prophecy “experts” are not in agreement.
(4) The Doctrine of Imminent Return Exposed
If we listen to most prophecy teachers, Jesus was soon to come for the past 2000 years, but that is not true. The pretribulation Rapture theory includes the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ that says the Rapture can happen at any moment, followed by the Great Tribulation, and that it could have happened at any time since Christ returned to heaven. These two doctrines are welded together like steel, and therefore cannot be separated. Just because we do not know when the end will come does not mean it is imminent. There are in fact many verses of Scripture that prove that Jesus would stay away a long time. Here is an example from Matthew 24. Jesus said:
“6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes …” (Mat. 24:6-7)
These verses describe many years of history, “Nation will rise against nation.” This means many wars will take place before Christ returns. This statement alone destroys the imminent Rapture/return theory, because it shows that there is a specific end to the Gospel Age, and that it is in the distant future from the time of Christ and even after many years of history, “the end is still to come.” But we are finally nearing that end.
In Matthew 25, in the parable of the ten virgins, it says, “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept” (v.5). That word, “tarried” means “delayed.” This is another passage that says he will not come soon after he left. In another passage about a servant who beats the other servants, Jesus said:
But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants . . . (Matthew 24:48-49)
The KJV says, “My Lord delayeth his coming.” Even though it is the servant who thinks to himself that his master is staying away a long time, the meaning is that the master is staying away a long time, which is why the servant had those thoughts. Clearly, Jesus told us he would stay away a long time.
Paul actually taught against the imminent Rapture theory. Yes, Paul spoke out in Scripture against the belief in an imminent return of Christ:
That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. (2 Thess. 2:2) (KJV)
About half the translations say the same as the KJV, that the Day of the Lord “is at hand,” which means about to happen right away. Other translations say, “is come” or “is present.” According to Robert’s Word Pictures, the passage should read, “is imminent.” Robert’s Word Pictures says:
As that the day of the Lord is now present . . . Perfect active indicative . . . intransitive in this tense to stand in or at or near. So “is imminent” (Lightfoot). . . . Certainly it flatly denies that by conversation or by letter he had stated that the second coming was immediately at hand. . . . It is enough to give one pause to note Paul’s indignation over this use of his name by one of the over-zealous advocates of the view that Christ was coming at once. . . . Moreover, Paul’s words should make us hesitate to affirm that Paul definitely proclaimed the early return of Jesus. He hoped for it undoubtedly, but he did not specifically proclaim it as so many today assert and accuse him of misleading the early Christians with a false presentation.
The Complete Word Study Dictionary says, “To be present, instant, or at hand . . . Impending.” It is translated “present” in 1 Cor. 3:22 and Gal. 1:4. There you have it, not only did Christ speak against the imminent Rapture / return in the parables, but Paul spoke against it as well. On this point both Roberts and Lightfoot are in agreement.
What about the passages where we are told to be watchful? There are two ways of looking at those passages, one is that they mainly apply to the generation that will in fact see the return of Christ, and another is best illustrated with this story:
Suppose you were told to take a certain road and when you come to a large statue of a horse carved in the rock, then you should turn right at the road next to it. You don’t know where that rock is located, so you must watch for it right from the start of your journey. You don’t know that the rock is located 2,000 miles away. The rock is not hovering up in the sky waiting to slam down to earth whenever a command is given. It may seem to be imminent because you must watch for it from the start of the trip, but it actually is not. It is firmly planted in the ground 2,000 miles away; you just don’t know where it is located.
If the rock were imminent, it could appear at any time, it cannot appear at any time because it is firmly planted in the ground 2,000 miles away. If we could see 2,000 miles away we could see the rock there. But we cannot see that far ahead, so we must keep looking for it. I hope you can see how this is not imminence.
If the doctrine of imminence has a smoking gun, it is the statement by Peter that Christ must stay in heaven until the time when all things will be restored: “Repent, then, and turn to God . . . even Jesus. Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything” (Acts 3:19-21). This passage says that Jesus will stay in heaven until some future time when Christ will restore all things. (The smoking gun that kills the pretrib theory is found later in the book.)
Peter certainly did not look for a soon return, because he knew that the prophecy Jesus made must be fulfilled: “when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18). So Peter knew he was going to live to be an old man, so he knew Jesus was not going to return in his lifetime.
As you can see, the correct interpretation of Bible prophecy provides great evidence against the pretribulation Rapture theory, as we will see throughout this book, including the next section.
(5) The Rapture and the Feasts of Israel
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(6) Correct Spelling and Usage
Because many books and 80% of all web sites improperly use the words “prophecy” and “prophesy” I will explain the differences. “Prophecy” is a noun and “prophesy” is a verb. “Prophecy” is pronounced “pro-phe-see,” and “prophesy” is pronounced “pro-phe-sigh.” To prophesy is to speak forth a prophecy. A prophecy is a prediction that a prophet makes when he prophesies. Some examples of proper use are: “The prophet Isaiah wrote down many prophecies.” “Isaiah prophesied about the Great Tribulation.”
(7) Judgment Day & the Day of the Lord
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